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70 - Psychoanalysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 July 2019

Robert Burroughs
Affiliation:
Leeds Beckett University.
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Summary

Travel writing is shaped in its modern forms by Freudian and post-Freudian theory. It emerges out of some of the same ideas and images as psychoanalysis. In its pre-Freudian forms, what is more, travel writing is an important source material in Sigmund Freud's theories of the workings of the mind and its effects on behaviour. Freud's theory that the repression of traumatic experiences, often of childhood, manifests as hysteria was first published in 1896. In the same year, Joseph Conrad began work on Heart of Darkness, the story of a voyage, laden with symbols of and references to psychological revelation, up an unnamed river (that is nevertheless clearly the Congo) towards an ‘Inner Station’ of which the traveller recalls: ‘It seemed to throw a kind of light on everything about me – and into my thoughts’ (Conrad 1988 [1899], 11; Burroughs 2010, 12–13). Working in ignorance of one another, the two writers ‘discovered’ primal drives in the unconscious mind and in tropical parts of the world, both betraying the influence of earlier travelogues and travel fictions, notably Rider H. Haggard's adventure novel She (1887) (Mazlisch 1993). Freud (1995 [1896], 97–8) encouraged associations of his work with exploration (and, relatedly, archaeological excavation). Notoriously in 1926 he referred to sexual desire in adult females as the ‘dark continent’ of his research (McLaughlin 2013, 149; see sex/sexuality). He recreated the analogy for the presumed benefit of his patients in his office furnished with primitivist curios (see Torgovnick 1990, 194–209). As for his own dreams about and experiences of travel, from early writings onwards he tends to explain these in terms of wish fulfilment (see Freud 2010 [1899], 215–18, 229–32; Porter 1991, 189–95).

Under the influence of modernism, not least modernist writers’ rediscovery of Conrad as their own literary forebear (Burroughs 2010, 151), much twentiethcentury travel writing narrates inner, mental exploration. Having spent his publisher's advance, Graham Greene recalled consciously imposing a Freudian ‘parallel’ on his journey through Sierra Leone, French Guinea and Liberia in 1934 in order to add depth to an otherwise unremarkable experience (Fussell 1980, 67). In the resulting travelogue, Journeys without Maps (1936), Greene tentatively refers to his childhood while also suggesting the influence of Freud's ‘Civilisation and its Discontents’ (1995 [1930]) in broader statements about West Africa's relationship to ‘civilization’.

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Chapter
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Keywords for Travel Writing Studies
A Critical Glossary
, pp. 205 - 207
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2019

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